Though we didn’t get to Post Colonialism, in my section at least, this was easily the most interesting part of the chapter on posts for me. In the final working question of the chapter, it compares two scenes from Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark and then asked us to compare what our views on the Middle East are today.
I first noticed how the Middle East was cropping up in more and more of our movies when I watched Transformers and then Iron Man. In both movies, we see the Middle East as a dangerous place full of bad guys that try and kill, or at least hinder, our American protagonist. As luck would have it, shortly before this, I had been on a kick where I watched a whole bunch of old classics in black and white, where the bad guy was Russian 99% of the time. Well, after doing some investigation, I found that in the original Iron Man comic books, Tony Stark was kidnapped Wong-Chu, a Vietnamese commander. Considering this came out in 1963, I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out exactly why that person was chosen to be the kidnapper of what one could argue represents American intellect and business.
All that being said, I began to wonder if Post-Colonial was really a movement, or if it is simply the product of a much more politically charged world. As we live in an era of 24 hour new coverage, we are constantly aware of who the enemy is. A lot the post-colonial work I’ve read (Salman Rushdie for instances) seems to be a blatant back lash at whoever the enemy of the moment is. Of course, for many previously colonized nations, this equates to the colonizer, but for superpowers such as the U.S., this seems to be whoever the object of the current war is rather than Britain.
I wasn’t struck with anything off the bat to write for the blog this week. It wasn’t until I began thinking about the word “post” that my thoughts began churning. First off, “post” is a great word because it anagrams pretty widely for such a short word.
Secondly, “post” serves both as a word and a prefix. This week we were using it as a prefix mostly but I think the word as a noun lends itself nicely to the notions pointed to by attaching things to the prefix. A post, as in a fencepost, provides a nice mental image suiting for the progression of thought from thing to post-thing. The history of literary studies is not comprised of a single strip of fence ending with a post; rather, it is a series of these fences (being the things) and posts (being the post-things)that create a common fenced in area, literature. No single literary movement is the be-all, end-all of studies because, as a lot of the posts we studied this week show (post-modernism, post-colonialism, post-structuralism), the truth is wildly fluid and complex and subjective. It relates to our conversation about historicism in that we are presently partaking in events which become history as soon as they happen. Our present trends which situate us in English studies are going to be another criticism to be considered, another segment of the fence of literary understanding. Perhaps we will have a different term for our current schools of thought, be it fence or post, but it will still not be the ultimate answer.
They played with “post” for a quick second in TT, joking that we are approaching a post-post office society (moment of silence for the art of letter writing and letter receiving). That made me smile.
There’s also the verb “to post,” which is what I am about to do with this here blogpost (<– ooh, see, it's everywhere! Inescapable!).
In re-reading the History chapter of TT, I found myself drawn to the concept that “history narrates the lives of the victorious and powerful from their perspective, whereas literature tends to side with the vanquished and powerless, recounting their version” (Nealon 117). This was an idea I was immediately drawn toward, and felt like a kind of momentary enlightenment. I began racking through the literary canon for great literature from the side of the winners, and found myself coming back to the idea that maybe there is something to that old concept that great writing stems out of melancholia and despair—not exactly the fodder for champions and the successful. They go on to say this trend is somewhat less applicable after the 60’s and specifically point to Post colonialism. It connected to what we were studying this week in two ways. First of all, there was the immediate connection to New Historicism, and the idea that maybe literature can be read as history, and while historical records may give us dates and accounts of the major occurrences, literature is often the key to contextualizing and interpreting the raw data. Then, we read the chapter about Post-Colonialism. “Of course,” I thought, “that’s why it isn’t applicable after the 60’s,” thinking especially of O’Brien, Caputo and Vietnam War Literature. After all weren’t we the “powerful” ones? All at once there is a muddling of the colonizers, the foreigners, and the colonized; the repressing, oppressors, and oppressed, and in this instance the lines become very blurred. Of course, this could be used as an example of how the powerful perhaps produced the literature while the oppressed determined the history. But the literature, for the most part, comes from American soldiers who, while oppressing a group within Vietnam, were simultaneously being repressed by their government. Their literature did stem out of a sense of powerlessness, a willingness to have ‘their side’ of the story heard. So perhaps the axiom can be continued into the 60’s and 70’s, if we take a broader understanding of the idea of the oppressors/oppressed and start seeing post-colonialism in more of a grayscale.